Today I am reminded of a sacred and blessed moment during my 2014 pilgrimage to the Holy Land, when I was at the Mt. of Temptations (the hills behind me and the camel in the photo above) where Jesus fasted and prayed for 40 days and nights, and conquered temptation, preparing Him for his ultimate mission – salvation for mankind. His death on the cross and resurrection confirmed John 3:16 so that we might have hope. In the next few weeks, I hope to experience the words of St. Gregory the Theologian when he wrote: “Yesterday I was crucified with Him; today I am glorified with Him.” God – may these ashes be a quiet reminder of constant renewal in my faith. Lord, have mercy on me for I am a sinner, but through you, may my heart and soul be purified so that I can rise again from ashes. As I strive to be more holy, more merciful, and to know you more, may you strengthen in me the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, the cardinal virtues of fortitude, justice, temperance, and prudence, and the capital virtues of brotherly love, humility, chastity, diligence, temperance, meekness, and generosity so that I can become a more effective disciple of your kingdom. I ask that you constantly make me an instrument of peace, hope, joy and love, and that you use me for your glory – especially in my weaknesses – “for when I am weak I am strong” – so that I can better serve you and those that need the most healing in this world. Amen.
To my fellow Christians and Catholics: happy beginning of Lent – a time for spiritual renewal, a personal encounter with our Christ, fasting, prayer, repentance, a time where we can rise again from ashes. At the request of Pope Francis, may we pay special attention to mercy in this wonderful Jubilee year of mercy, for which Pope Francis wrote a prayer. Let us pray it now (and continue to do so throughout the year):
Lord Jesus Christ,
You have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father, and have told us that whoever sees you sees Him. Show us your face and we will be saved. Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being enslaved by money; the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things; made Peter weep after his betrayal, and assured Paradise to the repentant thief. Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman: “If you knew the gift of God!” You are the visible face of the invisible Father, of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy:let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified. You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error: let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God. Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing, so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord, and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed, and restore sight to the blind. We ask this through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy, you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.
To commemorate the start of our journey into the wilderness today – Ash Wednesday – I’d love for you to sing / recite this beautiful song – “Ashes” – with me as a collective prayer offering to our Heavenly Father:
1. We rise again from ashes, from the good we’ve failed to do. We rise again from ashes, to create ourselves anew. If all our world was ashes, then must our lives be true, an offering of ashes, an offering to you.
2. We offer you our failures, we offer you attempts, the gifts not fully given, the dreams not fully dreamt. Give our stumblings direction, give our vision wider view, an offering of ashes, an offering to you.
3. Then rise again from ashes, let healing come to pain, though spring has turned to winter, and sunshine turned to rain. The rain we’ll use for growing, and create the world anew from am offering of ashes, an offering to you.
4. Thanks be to the Father, who made us like himself. Thanks be to the Son, who saved us by his death. Thanks be to the Spirit who creates the world anew from an offering of ashes, an offering to you.
May our journey in the cross this Lenten season ultimately make us holier and bring us closer to Christ the Redeemer so that we can gloriously rejoice in His resurrection on Easter Sunday. All this I ask in your most precious name, Amen.
You will be in my prayers.
Photo above: Mount of Temptation in Jericho
My scripture prayers for today:
The Temptation of Jesus. 1 [a]Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted for forty days and forty nights,[b] and afterwards he was hungry. 3 The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” 4 [c]He said in reply, “It is written:
‘One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’”
5 [d]Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written:
‘He will command his angels concerning you’
and ‘with their hands they will support you,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’” 8 Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, 9 and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”[e]10 At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written:
‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship
and him alone shall you serve.’”
11 Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.
Teaching About Fasting. 16 “When you fast,[a] do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,18 so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.
The First Prediction of the Passion. 22 He said, “The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”
The Conditions of Discipleship. 23 Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily[a] and follow me. 24 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?